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Comment author: g 04 April 2009 09:41:15AM 0 points [-]

kebko, (1) doubtless there's something terribly dysfunctional going on; the question is whether it's better treated by giving more aid or by giving less. (2) If the continent's GDP might have been larger than it is, then the argument I was making applies more, not less. (Namely: the amount of foreign aid seems very small in comparison with the total size of the economy, which suggests that the amount of influence it can have had for good or ill probably isn't all that enormous.)

Carl, I like the idea of inventing things and making them free, but it might be unattractive to the people who'd need to do (or at least fund) it because it doesn't *look* like charity to, e.g., people looking at your accounts; and because unless the technologies are tightly Africa-focused they might lose a lot more in potential revenue than Africa gains in value. Also, it only works in so far as there are the necessary (human and material) resources in the poorest African countries to take advantage of the inventions.

Ian C, you either don't know what reason is or (at least in this case) don't know how to do it.

haig, if she's really calling for an end to *all* aid to Africa then that seems to go beyond what you suggest. (Eliezer could be right that she's keeping the message simple but really wants something more sophisticated. I am not convinced that this is the right strategy even if she's right about the underlying facts, and I'd also have thought that in a book-length treatment of the issue she could afford to present a less-simplistic version of her case.)

Comment author: g 03 April 2009 11:24:00PM 2 points [-]

Perhaps I should point out one particular way in which I could be badly wrong: presumably aid tends to go to the poorest African countries, whose GDP may be way below the average, so 1% of GDP might turn out to be a substantial amount for the countries it actually goes to. Perhaps Moyo's book has the relevant numbers?

Comment author: g 03 April 2009 11:20:58PM 4 points [-]

Eliezer, it's clear that Africa is in trouble. How compelling an argument does Moyo's book offer for believing that Africa is in trouble because it needs less aid, rather than because it needs more?

In this particular context it seems a bit strange to describe Moyo as an *African* economist. She lives in London and so far as I can tell has lived in the West for most of her adult life. In particular, the two most obvious reasons one might have for trusting an African economist more on this issue -- that her self-interest is more closely aligned with what's best for Africa than with what's best for the West, and that she's constantly exposed to the economic realities of life in poor African countries -- are less applicable than they would be to someone who actually lives in Africa.

Oh, and ... $1 trillion. Sounds like a lot. That's over the last 50 years, though. $20bn/year. Still sounds like a lot. The population of Africa is a little less than a billion. $20/year per person. Hmm. It's not quite so obvious that that would be enough to have a major distorting effect. Total GDP of Africa is something like $2T/year, which would make foreign aid to Africa something like 1% of its GDP. Again, would we really expect much distortion from that? Or, for that matter: If it's possible for aid to help Africa, would we expect aid at that level to have done much good?

(These are all without-even-an-envelope calculations, and could be badly wrong.)

In response to Wrong Tomorrow
Comment author: g 02 April 2009 09:30:11AM 0 points [-]

I'm not sure whether "it" in Rasmus's second paragraph is referring specifically to the fact that you can submit old predictions, or to the idea of the site as a whole; but the possibility -- nay, the certainty -- of considerable selection bias makes this (to me) not at all like a database of all pundit predictions, but more another form of entertainment.

Don't misunderstand me; I think it's an *excellent* form of entertainment, and entertainment with an important serious side. But even if someone is represented by a dozen predictions on Wrong Tomorrow, all of them (correctly) marked WRONG, that *could* just mean that it's only the wackiest 1% of their predictions that have been submitted. Which would show that they're far from infallible, but that's hardly news.

Quite possibly this is the best one can do without a large paid staff (which introduces troubles aplenty of its own); it's just not feasible to track every single testable prediction made by any pundit, and if that started being done and noticed the likely result is that pundits would start taking more care to make their predictions untestable.

Comment author: g 18 March 2009 11:04:36PM 2 points [-]

vroman, see the post on Less Wrong about least-convenient possible worlds. And the analogue in Doug's scenario of the existence of (Pascal's) God isn't the reality of the lottery he proposes -- he's just asking you to accept that for the sake of argument -- but your winning the lottery.

Comment author: g 18 March 2009 07:01:02PM 1 point [-]

Carl, it clearly isn't based *only* on that since Eliezer says "You see it all the time in discussion of cryonics".

Comment author: g 18 March 2009 08:59:20AM 4 points [-]

Eliezer, it seems to me that you may be being unfair to those who respond "Isn't that a form of Pascal's wager?". In an exchange of the form

Cryonics Advocate: "The payoff could be a thousand extra years of life or more!"

Cryonics Skeptic: "Isn't that a form of Pascal's wager?"

I observe that CA has made handwavy claims about the size of the payoff, hasn't said anything about how the utility of a long life depends on its length (there could well be diminishing returns), and hasn't offered anything at all like a probability calculation, and has entirely neglected the downsides (I think Yvain makes a decent case that they aren't obviously dominated by the upside). So, here as in the original Pascal's wager, we have someone arguing "put a substantial chunk of your resources into X, which has uncertain future payoff Y" on the basis that Y is obviously very large, and apparently ignoring the three key subtleties, namely how to get from Y to the utility-if-it-works, what other low-probability but high-utility-delta possibilities there are, and just what the probability-that-it-works is. And, here as with the original wager, if the argument does work then its consequences are counterintuitive to many people (presumably including CS).

That wouldn't justify saying "That is just Pascal's wager, and I'm not going to listen to you any more." But what CS actually says is "Isn't that a form of Pascal's wager?". It doesn't seem to me an unreasonable question, and it gives CA an opportunity to explain why s/he thinks the utility really is very large, the probability not very small, etc.

I think the same goes for your infinite-physics argument.

I don't see any grounds for assuming (or even thinking it likely) that someone who says "Isn't that just a form of Pascal's wager?" has made the bizarrely broken argument you suggest that they have. If they've made a mistake, it's in misunderstanding (or failing to listen to, or not guessing correctly) just what the person they're talking to is arguing.

Therefore: I think you've committed a Pascal's Wager Fallacy Fallacy Fallacy.

Comment author: g 05 February 2009 08:59:23PM 1 point [-]

(Second attempt at posting this. My first attempt vanished into the void. Apologies if this ends up being a near-duplicate.)

Patrick (orthonormal), I'm pretty sure "Earth" is right. If you're in the Huygens system already, you wouldn't talk about "the Huygens starline". And the key point of what they're going to do is to keep the Superhappies from reaching Earth; cutting off the Earth/Huygens starline irrevocably is what really matters, and it's just too bad that they can't do it without destroying Huygens. (Well, maybe keeping the Superhappies from finding out any more about the human race is important too.)

Comment author: g 05 February 2009 08:53:37PM 0 points [-]

Patrick (orthonormal), I'm fairly sure that "Earth" is correct. They haven't admitted that what they're going to do is blow up Huygens (though of course the President guesses), and the essential thing about what they're doing is that it stops the aliens getting to Earth (and therefore to the rest of humanity). And when talking to someone *in the Huygens system*, talk of "the Huygens starline" wouldn't make much sense; we know that there are at least two starlines with endpoints at Huygens.

Eliezer, did you really mean to have the "multiplication factor" go from 1.5 to 1.2 rather than to something bigger than 1.5?

In response to 31 Laws of Fun
Comment author: g 26 January 2009 07:25:37PM 1 point [-]

Beerholm --> Beerbohm, surely? (On general principles; I am not familiar with the particular bit of verse Eliezer quoted.)

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